Korean cosmetics makers struggle with soaring trademark infringements in China

Local cosmetics firms are grappling with soaring trademark infringements and design copies of their popular products in China and Southeast Asian countries, according to the Korea Intellectual Property Protection Agency (KIPO), Sunday.

Most cases of infringement concerning Korean beauty companies occurred in China last year with a total of 2,920. Indonesia was the second most with 840 cases,followed by Vietnam with 660 and Thailand with 550.

Korean companies have continued to call for the prevention of the infringement of intellectual property rights internationally, but local businesses in the countries mentioned above are ignorant when it comes to observing the law.

A number of counterfeit product manufacturers copy the brand image or item designs and sell them at cheaper prices to local consumers.

In the case of the local cosmetics firm, CLIO, their Eye Palette and Kill Cover products were copied. A company named PONY CLIO made similar items using the same names, “Eye Palette” and “Kiss Cover,” retailing them in China and Southeast Asian countries.

The product, 99 Percent Aloe Gel, by another Korean cosmetic company, Holika Holika, was also copied with a similar design, according to the Korea Intellectual Property Office (KIPO).

Chinese brokers preemptively register the trademarks of products copied from Korea in China first. They also take advantage of the difficult Chinese hygiene certification process, which means Chinese companies have an advantage.

It is hard for Korean companies to obtain hygiene certification from the National Health Commission of China as they have to reveal all the ingredients included in the products as well as the technologies they used to make them. The certification procedure itself is complicated too.

The number of Chinese brokers registering trademarks of existing Korean brands or their products in China has increased in the past three years. After that, brokers either resell the trademark rights to the local firms or deceive consumers through counterfeit products, selling them as originals in China.

This situation makes it hard for Korean firms to sell their products through official retail channels, so they have to rely on local online malls or Chinese sellers.

“We have seen the orders of our popular products in China or Vietnam decrease year after year. The main reason is that local brokers first show our original products to customers and then sell them their fake items instead. There is not much Korean firms can do for now,” a local cosmetics firm official said. “However, we will continue to monitor unofficial online channels in China and report them.”



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